Unsolved Murders

Nancy Wojtaszko

Age: 29

Sex: female

Date: 9 Mar 1955

Place: Norfolk Buildings, Curtain Road, Shoreditch

Nancy Wojtaszko was found dying from multiple injuries in the stairwell of Norfolk Buildings in Curtain Road, Shoreditch in the early morning of Wednesday 9 March 1955.

She was taken to St Leonards Hospital but died later that day shortly before midnight.

A 45-year-old fish porter who had lived in Watney Street, Stepney, was tried for her murder but found not guilty of both murder and manslaughter. He admitted that they had been drinking together and that he had pushed her up the stairs to her flat and had slapped her once, but denied assaulting her or kicking her. He added that he could not remember much of what had happened.

When the fish porter was first cautioned by the police after Nancy Wojtaszko died, he said, 'We went up to the flat and I told her I was going. She came after me and I was almost at the bottom of the stairs when she tried to pull me back. I smacked her, but didn't think this would happen. She laid on the floor and when I came to I picked up her handbag, put it in the flat and got her a glass of water'.

Nancy Wojtaszko had lived in Flat 8 Norfolk Buildings. She and the fish porter had met in Aldgate earlier at about 10.30pm on the night of 8 March 1955 and had gone back to her flat and were later found together by the police in the stairwell early the following morning after a neighbour called the police having seen the condition that Nancy Wojtaszko was in. Neighbours said that they heard Nancy Wojtaszko saying, 'Don't kick me' during the night and then later heard her groaning a lot and the pathologist that carried out her post mortem said that her death was due to multiple injuries including a subdural haemorrhage that had been caused by repeated blows to the head.

Nancy Wojtaszko had also been nearly naked apart from a some stockings and a jumper and the fish porter said that her clothes had fallen off whilst he was trying to get her up the stairs.

Nancy Wojtaszko was born on 4 July 1926 and married a man sometime between 1944 and 1945 although at the time of her death she had been living apart from him for six or seven years. She went into hospital some time in November 1954 and had an operation and was discharged in early January 1955. It was noted that she was partly paralysed in her left arm.

On 8 March 1955 the fish porter and Nancy Wojtaszko were seen at a lodging house at 15/16 Calvin Street in Stepney. They had arrived between 10.20pm and 10.25pm. The woman that ran the lodging house with her husband said that she knew the fish porter and said that he had been with a woman that she called 'Nance'.

The lodging house keeper said that they might have had something to drink, but looked none the worse for it and said that the fish porter handed her £2.0.0d and asked her to fetch a drink which she did. She said that she went out and came back with a half-bottle of gin, a half-bottle of whisky and three tonic waters and that there was 1/6d in change which she handed to the fish porter.

The lodging house landlady said that they left her place at about 12.15am.

She said that whilst the fish porter and Nancy Wojtaszko were in her lodging house that the fish porter had been drinking whisky and that he had drunk all but three drops of the half bottle, which she noted would have been the greater part of the half bottle.

She added that Nancy Wojtaszko drank practically all of the half bottle of gin.

The lodging house landlady said that when they left, Nancy Wojtaszko said, 'Come on, we'll get a cab' and that they both left together quite happily.

She said that they left in a decent way but that they had had enough. She noted that Nancy Wojtaszko had had her handbag with her and that she had taken it away with her left arm. She said that she also picked up a packet of Woodbines and took them with her when she left.

The lodging house landlady noted that she had seen the fish porter earlier in the evening between 7.45pm and 8pm at which time he had brought a man friend with him with the object of fixing him up some lodgings. She noted that the man was not with the fish porter when he had later called at 10.25pm with Nancy Wojtaszko.

A woman that lived in Flat 6, Norfolk Buildings in Curtain Road on the second floor below Nancy Wojtaszko's flat said that on the night of 8 March 1955 she went to bed at 11pm, noting that her son was on night work at the time. She said that she was later woken up by a loud noise and got out of bed and switched on the light and looked at the main entrance to the flat on the landing and saw that the door was open. She noted that when she had gone to bed that the door had been locked.

She said that she saw a man on the landing but didn't see his face as well as a woman who was sitting outside who she recognised as Nancy Wojtaszko. She said that she was sitting near the wall by her door and that it was about 1am or 2am. She said that she asked the man 'What are you doing? You've broken into the wrong flat', and said that the man replied, 'I'm sorry' and that he then pulled the door to.

The woman from Flat 6 said that she then went back to bed and then heard the man say 'Get up', but heard nothing from Nancy Wojtaszko.

A man that lived in Flat 2 Norfolk Buildings said that on the night of 8 March 1955 that he went to bed at about midnight and was later awakened at about 1.30am when he heard a crash which he said he thought was from his flat, where his son lived upstairs although he said that he later found that that was not so. He said that later on, sometime between 3.15am and 3.30am he heard voices including the sounds of a woman moaning from the stairs above him. He said that he heard a man's voice say, 'Get up' from above him. He said that there were mumbles all the time of a woman moaning and that after that he heard more moaning again from above at about 5am and then a thump as though someone were falling downstairs and then the voice of a woman saying, 'Don't hit me', or 'Don't kick me', or something like that which he said was coming from the landing outside his flat. He said that he didn't recognise the man's voice but said that he recognised the voice of the woman as that of Nancy Wojtaszko from Flat 8. He said that he only heard the man say, 'Get up'.

He said that his wife went out onto the landing at about 7am with a cup of tea, noting that he heard nothing more between 5am and 7am.

The wife of the man that lived in Flat 2 Norfolk Buildings said that she remembered going to bed on 8 March 1955 and later being woken up by a noise at about 1.30am, saying that it sounded like the door of her upstairs flat being broken open. She said that after that she heard noises on the stairs and heard Nancy Wojtaszko who lived in Flat 8 saying, 'Don't hit me'. She said that the noises went on for a time. She said that she looked out through the grating of her lavatory and saw Nancy Wojtaszko rolled up on the first floor landing but could not see anyone else near her at the time but plainly heard a man's voice say, 'Get up', but could not say exactly where the man's voice was coming from.

She said that when she first looked through the grating in the lavatory that it would have been about 3.30am and that she had shouted out of the grating, 'Aren't we going to get any sleep tonight', but got no answer.

she said that she later got up at 5am and made some tea and noted that after she had gone back to bed at 3.30am she had heard noises all the time like moaning and groaning and that she could still hear it at 5am.

She said that when she first went out of her flat to get some coals it was daylight but that she didn't see anyone. She said then at 7am she went out and gave the fish porter a cup of tea and said, 'Give this to Nancy' and then walked straight back in again. She said that at that time the fish porter was by the staircase on the ground floor at the entrance to the flats.

She said that at 7am she could still hear Nancy Wojtaszko moaning and that when she went over to look at her she found her rolled up on the landing on the ground floor into the stair way, noting that she only had a pair of stockings and a jumper on and had something over her head.

She said that when she first saw the fish porter he was at the side of the stairway beside the wall. She said that she didn't speak to him except to say, ''She needs a doctor', and noted that he said nothing to her. She said that after that she went off for the police and soon after saw them arrive.

A man that lived in Flat 4 Norfolk Buildings, the son of the man that lived in Flat 2, said that he had gone to bed at about 11.30pm and read for a while and that whilst he was reading he heard a woman's voice coming from above.

He said that he recognised the voice of Nancy Wojtaszko and also heard the voice of a man. He said that he heard Nancy Wojtaszko saying, 'Stop hitting me', or something like that, but didn't remember what the man had been saying. He said that he then heard the sound of someone falling downstairs and some voices outside his door and also some bottles being scattered after which he heard Nancy Wojtaszko moaning, but said that he could not remember what she was saying or what it was about.

A woman that lived in Flat 3 Norfolk Buildings said that on the afternoon of 8 March 1955 that she put out some empty bottles on the landing outside her flat on the first floor. She said that later that day she went to a dance with her husband and returned on 9 March 1955 at about 12.30am. She said that when she returned she neither saw nor heard anything unusual, but that at about 2m or 2.30am she was woken up by the sound of a man above her as well as the sound of Nancy Wojtaszko, who she knew, saying, 'Leave me alone', or something like that. She said that she also heard the man say 'Will you get up'. She said that she heard the voices from her toilet and that after hearing them she went back to bed. she said that that was the last that she heard until her husband got up at 5am to go to work at which time she heard the sounds of a man and a woman talking on the landing above.

The woman said that she then went back to bed at 6am and got up again at about 9am and went out onto the landing and saw one of the bottles that she had put out the evening before had been broken and so she swept them up and put them in a dustbin outside the flats.

The woman's husband said that after getting home from the dance with his wife on 8 March 1955 at 12.30am that he went to sleep and heard nothing until he awoke at 5.30am. He said that he then left the flat at 6am and that as he did so he went towards the front entrance of the flats and saw the fish porter standing on the stairs at the bottom of the ground floor and something covered over on the half landing and then went out.

The police arrived at Norfolk Buildings on the morning of 9 March 1955 at about 7.35am and saw the fish porter inside the entrance of the building seated on the bottom of the steps on the ground floor and then saw Nancy Wojtaszko lying inside the entrance on the ground floor at the foot of the flight of stairs.

The police constable that first arrived said that when he saw Nancy Wojtaszko she had blood on her face and that both of her legs were swollen. He said that her left eye had an open cut on the eyebrow and that there was also a cut on her right eye lid. He said that she was nude except for a dirty grey cardigan and a pair of stockings and that she had numerous scratches and bruises on her whole body. He noted that she was covered over with a woman's dark coat and a dark blue skirt that was over her knees.

He noted that on top of the garments there was a raincoat and that there was a pair of dark blue, high heeled shoes on her left side.

He said that there were also bloodstains on the concrete floor and on the walls.

He said that Nancy Wojtaszko was unable to speak but that she was making occasional moaning noises.

The police constable said that when he spoke to the fish porter, the fish porter said, 'We had been drinking whisky and gin. We got back about 1.30am. She could not get up the stairs and fell down. She made several attempts to get up the stairs and I helped her and that's how her clothing must have come off. I saw I couldn't help her, so I stayed with her all night'.

An ambulance was then called for at 7.42am and the fish porter got in it with Nancy Wojtaszko.

The ambulance driver said that whilst they were driving to the hospital, he asked the fish porter about Nancy Wojtaszko and said that the fish porter said, 'The missus and I had been out for a drink and she fell on the stairs on the way home'. The ambulance driver then said, 'Surely you did not leave her there all night', to which the fish porter replied, 'You know what it is when you've had a drink'.

The ambulance driver said that he noted that Nancy Wojtaszko was only wearing her stockings and said that the fish porter told him that he had pulled them off trying to get her up the stairs.

When a house surgeon saw Nancy Wojtaszko he said that he attempted to record her blood pressure but said that he had difficulty but that he recorded a reading of 100/60, noting that that was a low reading.

He said that when he examined her he found that she was semi-conscious but that she responded little and said practically nothing. He said that she had severe bruising to her head and face and said that on the left side of her head she had a large fluctuant bruise, but that the whole of her head was very bruised and that he could not distinguish the number of bruises. He added that she had severe bruising to both eyes and a cut over her left eye and several small cuts to her left eye as well as several bruises and superficial abrasions to her face and nose. He said that she had dried blood in both ears and in her nose and that her lips were swollen and that she had a small abrasion on her left upper lip.

He noted that she also had severe bruises and scratches to her left arm and leg and that her left arm and leg were both paralysed.

He added that there was some evidence of an operation to relieve a therepal haemorrhage.

He described Nancy Wojtaszko as being rather well built and heavy, estimating her weight to be about 11 stone or possibly more.

he said that there was a strong smell of alcohol in her breath and  that in his opinion it would have been possible for her to have caused the injuries that she had by falling down some stairs several times, noting that it would have had to have been a succession of falls.

The house surgeon said that he didn't personally deal with Nancy Wojtaszko after that, but said that he had seen her records and said that she was admitted with a sub-dural haemorrhage and that she had a weakness of the left side of her body which was attributed to partial paralysis.

Nancy Wojtaszko was 5ft 6in tall.

The doctor that carried out the post mortem on Nancy Wojtaszko said that he found multiple bruises and abrasions on her body which were most severe around her face where they were confluent and that bruising had closed both of her eyes. He said that there was a lacerated wound about an inch long over the centre of her left eyebrow and that her lips were swollen and  split and that her nose was broken.

He added that she had numerous abrasions on her chest and bruising that was about 6in by 2in above her right breast as well as abrasions over her lower ribs in front and on her right hip. He added that there were scattered bruises on the front of both of her thighs and abrasions on both of her knees, her left ankle and the first and second toes of both feet. Other 'injuries also included scattered bruises on her shins and abrasions on the right side of her throat and her right wrist. Also, on her back, he found four groups of three broad abrasions to her left.

He said that there was also a similar group of abrasions in the small of her back and another similar group on her right buttock which he said he thought were due to fingernails.

He noted that there was gross bruising over the base of her spine.

The doctor said that when he examined her internally he found gross bruising through her scalp and bruising over the base of her spine that spread internally into both buttocks and as far as the crest of her left hip.

He said that her skull was intact, but that there was a recent haemorrhage under her right temple and occipital lobes of the brain, as well as a bruise over the left angle of her jaw in the deep tissues.

He said that the bruises that he had described in the lower part of her back and buttocks were consistent with repeated blows with or against a flat surface and could have been caused if she had been dragged down a flight of stairs, noting that his opinion about the bruises to her scalp were the same.

He added that some of the smaller lacerations to her right eyelid could have been caused by splinting glass, but said that he would not suggest a strong opinion as to that.

The doctor noted that he found that her right carotid artery had previously been tied some time before for the purpose of obliterating a small aneurysm, a congenitally dilated blood vessel, that would have on some previous occasion leaked and caused damage to the right temperal lobe of the brain with the objective being to prevent further haemorrhage to the brain.

The doctor then concluded that in his opinion Nancy Wojtaszko's death was due to shock due to multiple injuries including sub-dural haemorrhage, that being haemorrhage beneath the coverings of the brain and that the haemorrhage had been caused by repeated blows to the head.

When the police examined the landings and the staircase running down into the street they found a number of blood stains and extensive means to the ground floor entrance that were suggestive of someone having been bleeding and being dragged downstairs. Then, on the stairs leading immediately down to the first floor landing they found hairs embedded in dried blood on the edges of two of the steps. They also found more hairs embedded in dried blood stains on the stairs leading down to the ground floor landing on the edges of two of the steps.

When the blood and hair were examined they were all found to belong to Nancy Wojtaszko, the blood being Group O. When the fish porters jacket and shoes were examined, they two were found to have blood of Group O on them, the jacket having extensive bloodstaining on both sleeves and the shoes being extensively bloodstained on the front parts of both uppers and also on the instep of the right shoe. The right shoe was also found to have had human hair on it similar to that of Nancy Wojtaszko's hair.

Also, ten fragments of glass were also found to be embedded in the soles of the shoes which were said to be similar to the fragments that there later recovered from the dustbin that the woman from Flat 3 had swept up after finding them broken in the hallway.

When the glass itself was examined, it was also found to have had human hair adhering to it with other fragments being slightly stained with blood.

When the fish porter was questioned at 9.20am on 9 March 1955 he said, 'I did not hit her, she got that when she fell down as we were going up stairs. We were both well boozed and I was going with her for the night. I tried to lift her up but she kept falling down. I've been with her all night. I met her at Aldgate about 10.30pm'.

Following that the police went to see Nancy Wojtaszko at St Leonard's Hospital and then later the next day went back to see the fish porter and told him that Nancy Wojtaszko was seriously ill and that they were going to detain him, to which he made no reply.

When he was searched he was found to have two 10/- notes, a diary and some correspondence. In his left jacket pocket he had £1 16. 6d silver and fivepence in bronze. It was noted that after the search was complete the fish porter said, 'Can I get a packet of fags'?'. When the police told him that they were keeping his property he said, 'That money is mine'.

When the police went back to examine the flat they found that there were no signs of disorder and in the living room found Nancy Wojtaszko's handbag and also an empty Woodbine cigarette packet.

When the police then went back to see the fish port and told him that they wanted to take possession of his clothes he said, 'The blood on mine is all hers', I got it when I lifted her up, she kept shouting and wouldn't go upstairs'.

The fish porter was tried at the Old Bailey but found not guilty on Wednesday 25 May 1955. It is not clear whether the jury felt there was not enough evidence to convict him or whether they believed that he was not guilty.

*map pointers are rough estimates based on known location details as per Place field above.

see discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk

see National Archives - CRIM 1/2589

see Coventry Evening Telegraph - Thursday 26 May 1955

see Birmingham Daily Post - Thursday 10 March 1955